The SkodaTour de Luxembourg queen stage came down to an uphill battle to the line with Greg Van Avermaet finishing a close second and taking over control of the General Classification.
Despite lots of early attacks, it took over 30km, of the 192.9km stage, for four riders to be given the freedom to build up an advantage over the rest of the field.
By the time the quartet had reached KM 40, their lead had risen to over three minutes but, with BMC Racing Team controlling the bunch behind, it eventually settled at around 3’30”.
Heading into the final 90km of the day, the pace of the peloton rose quickly with the breakaway brought to within 2’50” before the gap began to fall steadily over the next 50km.
Eventually, with 40km remaining, and on the first of three ascents of the Herrenberg climb, the leading group was less than 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
With the breakaway in touching distance, four riders took the opportunity to bridge the gap and, as a result of the added horsepower, the group’s advantage started to increase slightly.
At the 10km to go mark, the peloton was hovering around one minute behind but, with BMC Racing Team chasing hard, the race was ultimately back together and heading for a brutal final uphill sprint to the line with 2km to go.
Going under the flamme rouge, the relentless pace at the front of the bunch saw riders drop off the back before the final sprint was launched.
Van Avermaet went to the front early and was powering towards the line with his trademark grit and determination before a tight finish saw him finish second behind Anthony Perez (Cofidis), and move into the overall race lead.
After two days in the yellow jersey, the steep gradient took its toll on Jempy Drucker who eventually slipped back on the final climb, crossing the line 1’21” behind the eventual winner, Perez.
Quotes From the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“When you lose a race you always have to think about what you did right and what you did wrong. I am not really happy about coming second today. The only thing I can say is that maybe I went a little too early and was a bit too confident. When [Anthony] Perez came next to me, I didn’t have the power to keep him on my line. For sure I am not at 100% yet, and it is normal that sometimes you get beaten. It was a really good finish for me, and I was pretty confident that I could do it but you have to admit when someone does a better job than you.”
Sports Director, Steve Bauer:
“It was a very tough stage today. The longest one of the race with a very difficult finale. We knew we had to control the race and we were able to stick to our plan of letting a breakaway go that was less challenging to control. We were fortunate that the four riders that went away were a little further back on the GC so, the ride was controlled all day.”
“The guys did a great job. Floris Gerts and Martin Elmiger did a lot of the early work and then, on the final circuits, we had some work to do with the late attacks. But, Loïc Vliegen, Michael Schär, and Nathan Van Hooydonck did a great job to pull them back at the base of the climb. From there it was really up to Jempy Drucker and Greg Van Avermaet. We knew this was a great finish for Greg and in the end, he just missed the stage win. But, he moved into the overall lead, so it was a fabulous day for the team.”
“We still have to control the race tomorrow. The finishing circuits are hard, and once again I think it will come down to the final kilometers. We know Greg can match anyone in the closing kilometers of a race so we are in a good position if we can bring it together for the final.”